Category: Strategy – Vision


Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Strategy - Vision, Transformation

The power of vulnerability

Up-close-and-personal chats with New Zealand’s leading visionary CEOs

By Kim Goodhart

The world is moving at a faster pace, forcing the disruption of industries and the future is unclear. CEOs have the unenviable job of leading their organisations into the unknown and face the inevitable challenge of having to learn as they go. Since failure is an inevitable part of learning, how do they cope with the fear of failure?

No child would learn to ride a skateboard if the fear of crashing into the sidewalk outweighed the vision of flying along the sidewalk. Children have an enviable ability to dream. To create a clear vision of what they want to achieve. To lead their people into the unknown CEOs must lock on to the vision of flying along the sidewalk to overcome the fear of crashing.

As such, the courage to fail is now a critical virtue of leadership. In the words of Robert F. Kennedy, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly”.

In the first of a series of one-on-one close-up interviews that Real TV is doing with New Zealand’s leading CEOs, I talk to Southern Cross Health Society CEO Nick Astwick about the courage to fail and the benefits of this virtue.

As Nick says in the interview <watch it here>, failures taught him to not associate who he was too much with either his successes or his failures. He also learned to surround himself with black hat thinkers who would question him along the way.

Nick says that failures, while painful, gave him the self-awareness and resilience to lead. I believe that leaders like Nick not only accept their failures – they learn that their failures have made them stronger leaders and as such they embrace failure with a positivity that gives them the courage to be vulnerable in the face of fear.

It is this vulnerability that gives them the strength to lead their people into the unknown. Perhaps it is this vulnerability that also allows them to see the vision for what they want to achieve (is it the fear of failure that prevents so many people from knowing what they dream of?).

You could say that leaders are *anti-fragile. They are strengthened by the things that have gone wrong in their lives. Great leaders take the knocks in life and grow from them. This is what makes them stronger and gives them the humility to lead and ultimately to succeed. Without leaders who dream of how things can be, life would continue as it always has. It takes courage to lead people into the unknown and this is the power of vulnerability.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

– Winston Churchill

*anti-fragile: the term comes from the book, ‘Things That Gain From Disorder’ by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Strategy - Vision, Transformation

What makes leaders unique?

Up-close-and-personal chats with New Zealand’s leading visionary CEOs

By Kim Goodhart

“I believe in what I do. Work is not a job; it is a vehicle in which I can contribute to New Zealand and that’s the way I feel it. Life is short. Give it a bash. It’s a philosophy. I have a deep belief that business is about advancing society for the good.” – Southern Cross Health Society CEO Nick Astwick

Is this the kind of thinking that sets great leaders apart from other people?

In the first of a series of Real TV one-on-one interviews with New Zealand’s leading CEOs, I talk to Southern Cross Health Society CEO Nick Astwick who sees a big part of his role as making sure New Zealand is a productive nation. You can watch it here.

“In the long term it would be lovely for my grandchildren to want to carve their career in NZ. We need large organisations and opportunities for kids in NZ to make it.”

Something that is beginning to emerge in my thinking as I do more of these interviews, is that the leaders who will have the best impact on our society have an ability to see what is now, and what could be. They see a clearly articulated vision for the future and they want to create it for us. They then have to communicate that vision to others – and when others understand that vision, they want to join them.

Nick puts it well when he says, “I think one of the biggest roles we have as leaders is to get people brought into the vision”.

Articulate the future and drive towards it

The skill of a leader is to clearly articulate the future. The power of the vision comes when everyone believes in the vision.

“As a leader you have to get your people to buy into the vision and this happens through thousands of conversations,” says Nick.

‘Normal’ people, I am sure, don’t think like this. We’re often told that leaders can be made, however, I’m not convinced this is a learned trait. I believe this is something some leaders are born with, which sets them apart and gives them the hardwiring to lead people into the unknown. The power of these leaders comes from the vision. Their ability to see possibility where others might not, and to connect others to that vision.

“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”

– Jack Welch, Former Chairman, General Electric

Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Kim, Purpose, Strategy - Vision, Transformation

Why do you have to be true to yourself to lead?

Up-close-and-personal chats with New Zealand’s leading visionary CEOs

By Kim Goodhart

In the lead up to the 1995 Rugby World Cup, Nelson Mandela (the story goes) had to face down a room full of his peers, colleagues and followers – all of whom are in a meeting specifically to cull the Springbok emblem.

He was a lone voice, but he stood his ground. He had a vision for national unity and would not be swayed despite the cacophony around him. The Springbok emblem united the country in the 1995 Rugby World Cup and remains to this day.

In the first of a series of one-on-one close-up interviews that Real TV is doing with New Zealand’s leading CEOs, I talk to Southern Cross Health Society CEO Nick Astwick to find out about authentic Leadership. Nick makes the point that a good CEO or leader is true to him/herself.

Nelson Mandela remained resolute in the face of dissent that conflicted with his vision, but for many CEOs it isn’t much different.

Today’s CEO must manage the demands and expectations of customers, shareholders, board members and their people – all of whom are wildly different. Clearly, to succeed, a CEO must be confident that his or her vision is the right one and that confidence, I think, comes to CEOs who know themselves well enough to find the right organisation to lead – one that aligns with who they are.

The value of authenticity

Nick is clear that a CEO must be authentic. Don’t try and be someone you’re not for the role. You will only be successful in leadership if you are genuinely truthful to who you are. If you try to be somebody you’re not, then you will be caught out very quickly.

Nick says it wasn’t until he knew why he wanted to be a CEO, and what type of CEO he would be, that he found a fit with an organisation and a strategy that he could be true to himself. Only then did he become a CEO.

In fact, in the video <watch it here> he tells us how he failed to get the top job when he was trying to be something that his potential employers wanted, rather than who he was.

I believe it is the inner clarity that comes from knowing yourself and knowing what you believe that allows great leaders to make the seemingly impossible possible.

In the movie Invictus – which tells the South African version of events leading up to the 1995 Rugby World Cup – there’s a scene where black children rush with joy to play with white rugby players. One rugby player says to another, “Did you ever imagine this?” To which his team mate replies, “How could I?”

Most people will never see what can be possible until it happens.

And while it may seem extreme to suggest that our CEOs and leaders need the level of conviction that Nelson Mandela showed. I believe our best leaders have the same authentic passion for the vision they are leading. It is this that is driving the changes within their organisations and it is this that inspires their people, customers, shareholders and board members.

When all these people start to see the vision become a reality they too ask, “Did you ever imagine this?” Leaders that are true to themselves and have vision can make the seemingly impossible possible and that is why I believe we need them.

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”

– Nelson Mandela

Photo by:  Quino Al

Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Kim, Purpose, Strategy - Vision, Transformation

Sexual harassment in the workplace needs a tick, not a big stick

As momentum from the global #MeToo movement reaches New Zealand shores – signalled by recent allegations of a culture of sexual harassment in the legal sector – it may be time for this country to introduce the gender equality equivalent of the gay community’s Rainbow Tick.

Incentives always work very well, and a ‘gender equality tick’ programme may be a compelling incentive to drive the change in culture we need to achieve real behaviour change.

Rules and disciplinary processes are necessary to protect people, but as a tool for enduring cultural change within an organisation, they are unlikely to be enough. The drawback of the disciplinary process – while necessary – is that people are too afraid to speak up because they think of the social cost to themselves or they are afraid that it might destroy their careers.

Far more impactful than just punishing the bad behaviour would be a vision and celebration of mutual respect and equality within the workplace – something people can aspire towards, together with the tools and education to achieve it.

In my experience – in working with companies to achieve behaviour change through communication – where undesirable behaviour exists, it is often so ingrained in the culture that most people are oblivious to it or they have accepted it has the norm.

Time after time I’ve seen how it is rewards-based systems that achieve better transformation. The equivalent of a Rainbow Tick will be a greater motivation for change. The tick, combined with education – and a few simple measures that people can take to improve their company culture – could rapidly change the current situation.

A ‘gender equality tick’ system would help both prospective employees, and customers, make informed decisions about whether or not they want to do business with an organisation – itself a strong incentive to drive real transformation in the workplace.

Consumer choice drives business decision making. When the consumer has a choice between two equally good products or services, they may be more inclined to choose a company that is socially responsible. So, when all the information is out in the open, then companies are motivated to do the right thing.

Both men and women need to feel safe in the workplace. Processes and workplace regulations are important but change needs to happen because people want it to happen and they’re ready for it.

The Rainbow Tick (http://www.rainbowtick.co.nz/whats-rainbow-tick/) is a certification mark awarded to organisations that complete a Diversity and Inclusion certification process regarding whether or not workplaces understand, value and welcome sexual and gender diversity.

I believe the Rainbow Tick works because it allows organisations to celebrate their diversity and inclusion. It allows them to tell the public that they’ve got it right, and it delivers both education and achievable steps for organisations to follow so that they can get it right – it moves beyond blame to solving, which can only be good for everyone.

If an organisation has a vision and enrols its staff in that vision, change will follow. Enforcement in the workplace can only treat the symptoms, but culture change is far more valuable.

Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Kim, Purpose, Strategy - Vision, Transformation

#MeToo – How culture control can help CEOs achieve gender equality

In horticulture there is a term called ‘culture control’ that involves using various techniques, like crop rotation, to change the environment into one that is undesirable for pests and diseases – it’s also a made-to-fit analogy for how an organisation can become a place that is undesirable for sexism and misogyny.

By putting in place a series of measures – like New Zealand’s pest quarantine system, using resistant plant varieties, ensuring soils are well drained and tools are kept clean – horticulturalists create an environment where plant diseases and pests find it difficult to get a footing.

Horticulture calls the practise ‘culture control’, but it’s an apt term to apply in the workplace too. By implementing ‘culture control measures’ in the workplace, we can create an environment in which it is difficult for sexism, misogyny and *‘himpathy’ (the tendency to sympathise with men accused of sexual harassment and assault) to take root.

By implementing a series of ‘culture control’ measures in an organisation, chief executive officers and senior management can help shift to a place where gender equality and diversity flourish – a place where each person is valued and rewarded for who they are and their contribution, rather than by gender or race.

Importantly, the CEO will be creating an environment that is not conducive to sexism and its darker counterpart, misogyny; thereby achieving lasting change.

What are some of the ‘culture control’ measures that organisation’s might consider?

  1. Workplace sexism prevention

A culture of sexism or even ‘himpathy’ encourages the growth of misogyny. Weed out sexism, and misogyny will struggle to take root.

Like workplace health and safety – or accident prevention – management could look to run an education programme about why gender equality is important for everybody and how to spot bad habits, sexist behaviour and language (including in the individual personally).

This can then be supported with real tools for eliminating sexist language and behaviour, even within ourselves, as well as processes for dealing with issues as they arise.

  1. Storytelling

To achieve real change, there needs to be an emotional shift.

Sharing video stories about women and some of their challenges, for example, will tap into people’s emotions and achieve meaningful change in attitudes and levels of empathy towards women e.g. put yourself in a woman’s shoes.

  1. Outlets

In horticulture, ventilation is an important aide in temperature control which, in turn, is used to discourage the growth of, for example, mould.

The equivalent action may be putting in sympathetic processes and structures for women who need support, as well as disciplinary processes to deal to sexual harassment and misogyny and also some way or forum for women to share (and therefore educate), on things that are not acceptable (this applies to all women, not just a handful from the HR team – it needs to be companywide).

Only be creating an environment that celebrates equality and diversity can we begin to realise the true potential of an organisation.

*Himpathy, a term coined by Cornell University Philosophy Professor Kate Manne to mean making excuses, sympathy, forgiveness and or exonerating sexist or misogynistic behaviour i.e. “it was a different era back then” is himpathy.

 

Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Kim, Purpose, Strategy - Vision, Transformation

Team unity strips fear of its power

Part 3: Business lessons from Mount Cook

By Kim Goodhart

Little did I know (that’s me, the weakest link in our team) that the Mount Cook Range trail – a demanding 3 day alpine trek through the Ball Pass Crossing, would test us all, even the strongest in unexpected ways and only unity would pull us through.

After the glacier we had to climb up an exposed section of rock. Steve is incredibly strong and fit and leaves me for dust in every physical activity, but he hates extreme exposure and heights.

It is the only place where our roles get reversed. For a brief moment I’m able to be the person that supports him and it feels good. I’m not afraid of heights if I’m climbing because rightly or wrongly I feel that I am in control. I also knew that without a shadow of doubt that I could trust my team with the rope and that should I fall they would have me.

But that’s’ the funny thing about fear. It isn’t rational. What terrifies one person is simple to another. We all have our fears and they hold us back. Each and every person needs help – no matter how strong they are – when they encounter their fear.

Most people will do everything to avoid fear, but the really courageous go in there anyway. The best teams are the ones that know and understand each other’s fears and support each other through to the end. This is the beauty of a team over an individual. Strengths and fears blend together to make the team stronger.

But even though I know all this it was an eye opening experience for me to see the team move to reassure Steve and help him through the extreme heights. No one tried to urge him to go faster. No one was concerned. It was simply about making sure we all supported each other through every section. It’s a group effort and, when the team come together to support each other, they actually reach the goal faster and enjoy the journey.

Lessons from a slippery slope

On day 3 it was the loose rocks and scree slopes that got the other two team members.

Perhaps my naivety kept me from fear, but they knew all too well that we were surrounded by loose rocks. Any one of which could fall down the slopes at any moment and that we would have to move quickly if it did.

What I learned is that when a team is united with a common objective to reach a specific end goal, then everyone has to take into account the various team members and we have to help everyone get to the end.

To achieve this means listening to each other’s fears and anxieties, taking the time to understand them and give them what they need to get though. It takes knowing each other’s strengths and being able to rely on the stronger people – in that moment – to support you.

Looking back over the three days (see blog parts 1 and 2) I was happy on the exposed cliffs and crossing the glacial crevasses because I could trust my team. I knew that they would do whatever it took to keep each of us safe along the way. All  I had to do was play my role and keep putting one foot in front of the other to maintain the pace that our guide set.

And the result was that we achieved each section of the pass in record times. Our guide referred to our group as honed athletes. It is not something I’ve ever been described as but, thanks to the support of my amazing team, they brought me up to their level and this for me is what teams should be about.

What did I learn from the 3 day crossing?

* Choose your group carefully. You will only be as strong as the weakest link.

* Know your goal.  We all knew exactly what we’d set out to achieve and were committed to it.

* Know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. You need to be open enough to let each other in and rely on each other for support. Openness about your strengths and weaknesses builds trust – it is the power of vulnerability.

Do all that, and not only will you achieve what you set out to achieve, you will do it faster and more efficiently then you ever thought possible.

 

 

Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Kim, Purpose, Strategy - Vision

On thin ice – discovering the power of vulnerability

Part 2: Business lessons from Mount Cook

By Kim Goodhart

It was day two of the trail across the Mount Cook Range – a demanding 3 day alpine trek through the Ball Pass Crossing – and the icy glacier beckoned.

I was helped into a pair of crampons, attached to a rope and given an ice axe. I’m still not entirely sure what I would have done with my ice axe but, in theory, had I found myself sliding down the ice my job was to slam my full body weight onto the axe and into the ice so that I could stop myself. I think to be honest it was at that point that I knew my life was in the hands of my group.

It’s a humbling feeling to know that you are now dependent on everyone around you –  acknowledge that you don’t have the skills to save yourself.

I also didn’t have the skills to save anyone else should something go wrong. The only thing I could do was sit. And, fortunately, that was all I was instructed to do.

If one of the group fell into a crevasse, I was told to immediately sit down and dig my crampons into the ground so the other 4 of us would hold the poor person who fell into the crevasse while our guide would pull them out to safety.

I was desperately hoping that that person would not be me, but the reality is that my falling into a crevasse would be best case scenario because the others were better equipped to pull me out than I was them – I realised, with mixed feelings, that I was not only the safest person in my group, but that my greatest risk was myself.

The only real thing I could see going wrong was the danger of me impaling myself with my ice axe in a fall. Other than that I was totally safe. If I fell my team would easily pull me out.

This was a foreign sensation for me.

I’m someone who generally feels pretty capable. I know how to look after myself. I’m pretty resilient and more often than not I think I tend to look after the people around me. However here on the glacier, I had to acknowledge a different position.

I had to put all my faith in everyone around me. I had to believe that if something went wrong, they would save me. If there was a real risk when would I be left behind? If this was a business team in what situation would I be dumped from the group? Was my position as the weakest link a real risk?

But the difference between a business team and the team crossing a mountain is that losing someone isn’t an option. No one was going to leave me there. We’d picked our team and now we were in this through thick and thin. No one gets left behind. At any point the group dynamic can change and a new person could become the weakest link. We all know that.

In life the unexpected might be a chronic illness, a divorce or a new baby. All of which may change the dynamic of your team, reducing someone else to the role of the weakest link. Do the team drop them? Or do they support them? Do they surround them to make sure they feel safe in their vulnerability, knowing that they will bring other strengths to the table at a later time? How often do we drop people for not being at the top all the time and how much do we lose as a result?

How satisfying is it to make it to the end knowing you left people behind along the way? What kind of a person would that make you? Isn’t the real goal to all make it to the end?

Business moral: I would argue that the strength of our team came from the loyalty and patience of each of us to the others. I was faster crossing the terrain than I otherwise would have been because I knew I could trust those around me. I could be open about my fears, and know that I wasn’t being judged. This brought out a strength in me – the power of vulnerability – to go further and faster than I ever would have believed possible.

 

Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Kim, Strategy - Vision, Transformation

A common goal strengthens even the weakest link

Part 1: Business lessons from Mount Cook

By Kim Goodhart

Remember the anxiety you felt when you were a kid and you were the last person picked for the sports team?

It’s never a nice feeling to know that you’re the weakest link on the team, but on a recent mountaineering trip across the Mount Cook Range – a demanding three day alpine trek through the Ball Pass Crossing – that’s the position I found myself in.

I’d committed to doing the crossing with my fiancé Steve – an accomplished athlete – his best mate Brian (a serious mountain biker) and Sasha, Brian’s wife and long distance trail runner. So, with our guide, Jono I found myself in the 5th position as the least fit, least experienced and totally naïve addition to the team – I had never even climbed a mountain!

To say I was anxious about the expedition would be an understatement. But Steve reassured me that I was fit enough to cope with the trip and that he would be there to support me. My team were also very quick to put me at ease. Steve had told them I would be fine and they trusted his judgement.

You can’t get there on your own

My team acknowledged my anxiety but they told me this wasn’t about any of us being the weakest link. That when it comes to trips like these, at any moment any one of them could become the weakest link. All it takes is bad luck – a slip can lead to a sprained ankle, a falling rock could hit someone on the head or an exposed rock face could trigger a moment of anxiety. Any of these will change the group dynamic in a second. Out in the wilderness that is the reality.

The goal is not for one person to make it in the fastest time, but for the team to make it to the end. To achieve that, the group must move as one – supporting and encouraging each other along the way – if we were going to successfully complete the three days of hiking, climbing and sometimes sliding through the Mount Cook National Park.

Day 1: Up the mountain

The first day was a steady uphill climb in the rain. I was quick to realise that the guide was asking me questions along the route to check to see if I could still talk. This is a simple way to test how well you are coping and he was setting the pace at my limits.

This made me a little anxious as I was concerned that the others wanted to go faster and that I was holding them back. It was fascinating for me to learn that holding other people back creates some anxiety for me but Steve supported me the whole way. He kept reassuring me that I was doing a great job and that I didn’t need to go any faster. That everyone was happy to go at my pace.

The truth was I couldn’t have gone any faster even if I’d wanted to. It was simply beyond my capabilities and so I had to let go and just do what I could. Every time the guide paused I knew I needed the moment to collect my breath before I could continue on to the next section.

My strength I’ve discovered is perseverance.

I don’t give up easily and while I may not have been able to move as quickly as the others, I can dig pretty deep, stay cheerful and keep moving forwards. But it was still a surprise to me that we made it to the top far faster than our guide anticipated. It turns out that just maintaining a steady pace actually gets you to the top pretty quickly.

As our guide said, it’s the breaks that slow you down. It’s a great reminder in business that it’s not about racing to the end. Moving too quickly can actually slow you down. It can lead to fatigue. It can lead to accidents and it can lead to mistakes all of which delay progress.

Business moral: If you want to get your team to the finish line in the fastest time, you need to set a pace that works for the whole group and that means setting the pace at a speed that everyone can maintain.

At the top we were welcomed with the first avalanche I’ve ever seen.

Standing on the edge of the peek by the Caroline Hut, with Mount Cook peering out at us between the clouds, the snow and rocks suddenly set themselves free. The load roar as they bounded and bounced down the edge of the mountain was something to behold.

The four of us watched in awe, silenced by the sheer impact and power of nature.  It served as a reminder of how small we are as individuals on this planet and how beautiful the world around us really is. If it hadn’t been for that climb I would never have experienced anything like it. This was our reward.

Posted on / by Kim Goodhart / in Kim, Strategy - Vision

How storytelling helps you build business momentum

Success is over-rated. Think about it. After every big event, once the crowds and athletes have departed, what remains? Empty streets, litter, the sound of the wind and the creak of the abandoned winner’s podium.

Ask any Olympic gold medallist about that ‘lost’ feeling they get when the shouting’s all over. Think about the sense of regret you may feel when a good story ends. Hitting your sales budgets does not make you a great business. A happy ending does not in itself make a story good.

Staff need to constantly strive for wins

These outcomes are alright for stories and the Olympic Games. For all one-off-events that must come to an end. But your business is not a one-off event. One win must follow another, on and on, forever. So how do you keep it going? How do you keep your staff striving for win after win without getting bored? What do you do about that sense of déjà vu which, whether it follows a win or a loss, can incite feelings of futility?

In our previous two blogs “What Hollywood can teach business about culture, purpose and success” and “How do banks, retailers and insurance companies use storytelling to build success?” we discussed how purposeful storytelling could help you achieve successful transformation or cultural change within your organisation (for more on storytelling to build business momentum download our free eGuide here). But once you’ve achieved your initial objectives, how do you keep momentum?

The Dramatic Question

In the blog “How do banks, retailers and insurance companies use storytelling to build success?” we used Dunkirk and the rescue of more than 300 000 soldiers as an analogy to explain the concept of the ‘inciting incident’ (the battle of Dunkirk) and the ‘dramatic question’ (who will rescue the soldiers?) as two devices that are useful for achieving business objectives, in the same way as they achieve story goals.

If the heroes of the story were able to answer the dramatic question quickly, then that would be it. The soldiers make it home safely. The end. And yet, this is exactly the dilemma that confronts companies all the time, at that moment they meet their targets.

But unlike a story, there is no ending for your business. There’s only onward and upward, or a slow drift in the opposite direction.

The answer? To keep your customers, your staff and other stakeholders engaged and motivated, you need to uncover more dramatic questions.

Inciting Incidents

Fortunately, there’s also no end to inciting incidents when you’re in business – for example, head office whims, digital disruption, economic downturns, new inventions, changing social attitudes, fickle politicians.

For every inciting incident, there is a dramatic question. Sometimes the inciting incident is in your face, other times it’s sneakier, more subtle or a vague sense of disquiet.

Some of these dramatic questions may be:

  • ‘How do we work within the restrictions set by head office?’
  • ‘What will we do about emerging technologies?’
  • ‘How do we deal with the fact that we make junk food when what we really want is to teach people to have healthier eating habits?’
  • ‘How do we respond to our competitor’s new invention?’

It’s these challenges, that keeps the story interesting and the business striving.

Employees need to be a part of the Story

Importantly, if you want to keep your employees engaged you need to include them in your story. They need to be an active part of it. They need to be the hero, the audience, the stakeholders in your story. Once your staff suddenly find themselves abandoned on the beaches and no rescue in sight, they get motivated pretty quickly.

Tip: #1. List your inciting incidents and develop an understanding of the dramatic question in your business.

Tip: #2 Listen to your staff. Go to them for solutions. Let your staff try things, make mistakes and get back up and try again.

Tip #3: Let your customers into what you are trying to achieve, and then they will cheer for you, cry for you and support you – but they need to be part of the story; actively enrolled.

Do that, and you’ll keep your employees and your customers totally ‘hooked’ on the story you’re telling.

If you want to know more about storytelling, I highly recommend these two books (the bibles of storytellers):

‘Story’ by Robert McKee; and

‘Screenplay’ by Syd Field.

To read more on how purposeful storytelling can help you achieve successful transformation or cultural change within your organisation, download the eGuide Why 70% of Organisational Transformations Fail and How to Fix the Problem” here.

 

Posted on / by admin / in Kim, Strategy - Vision

How do banks, retailers and insurance companies use storytelling to build success?

How do banks, retailers and insurance companies use storytelling to build success?

338,266 Allied soldiers are trapped on a beach and threatened with total annihilation. Will they survive? Wristwatch salesmen Billy and Nick lose their jobs when the digital world overtakes them. Is this the end of their usefulness?

The Inciting Incident

All great stories begin with an inciting incident. An event that changes everyone’s lives. In a movie like Dunkirk, it’s the moment when you realise 338,266 soldiers are waiting to be rescued – some neck deep in the water – but the Royal Navy is no longer coming to get them.

In the corporate world, it might be the moment you realise Amazon is opening in your country, or when your customers suddenly align with a new technology or when economic events suddenly change your landscape.

‘The Internship’ (2013) is a movie, but it has a business message. Billy and Nick lose their jobs because mobile phones have replaced wrist watches.

Up until the inciting incident, nothing much is happening. It’s just business as usual. But once jobs are lost, soldiers are abandoned, and new technology makes you redundant – each an inciting incident – the major dramatic question of the story emerges.

How will the soldiers get home? How can the retailer survive Amazon’s drones? How can Billy and Nick make themselves relevant again? How will the bank adapt to the arrival of new technologies?

 The Major Dramatic Question

Following the inciting incident, the major dramatic question is the linchpin. It’s what holds the story together, creates a hero and keeps the audience hooked. We stay to watch the movie because we want an answer to that question. How will the soldiers survive? Who will rescue them?

The major dramatic question is relevant to your business as well. It keeps your employees engaged because they’re asking major questions too. Questions like: “How are we going to create a better society?” “How are we going to teach people about money so they can do good things with it?” “How will we use real stories to inspire people?”

Your People are the Heroes

In effect your people, your employees, are the hero of the story.

If a story teller doesn’t manage to communicate the major dramatic question – which demonstrates the purpose of the story – then the story fails; the audience disengages. They’re no longer interested. They turn off the TV. They close the book, and they go to sleep.

Examples of this disengagement at a business level occur every day. Business initiatives flounder. The company seems up to its neck in deep water. No change and no rescue in sight. They stop wondering ‘how?’. Instead, staff disengage. The passion wanes.

Here are three steps to help you discover your dramatic question; your purpose:

Get a blank piece of paper and sit down with a pencil. Now ask yourself:

TIP #1 What’s the inciting incident?

It could be new digital technology is making your business redundant, as it did to Bill and Nick. Perhaps it’s Amazon drones flying over your house, or peer-to-peer lending platforms.

TIP#2 What’s your dramatic question?

For example, how can you adapt? How can you make the world a better place? How can you still be relevant? How will you justify your existence?

Think of the answer to your dramatic question as your organisation’s purpose. Make sure it’s a purpose you care about it. No one reads a book or watches a movie if the protagonist isn’t all in. If the hero isn’t going to give a 110% to achieve the goal of the movie, what would be the point? You can’t tell a good story if the central question – the purpose – isn’t real and compelling.

An armada of small boats set sales to rescue the stranded soldiers. But their mission will face adversity and obstacles, but the cause is worth it. Bill and Nick apply for a job with Google (if you can’t beat ‘em) and must pass the rigorous internship programme, finding themselves up against computer savvy geeks and geniuses.

It isn’t going to be easy resolving your dramatic question. Nothing worthwhile ever is, but you can’t get through thick and thin if you don’t care.

TIP#3 Cometh the hour, cometh the heroes.

Not every hero is suited for every task. Not everybody likes war movies. Some like comedies. Others prefer romance. Not every story appeals to everybody. Your employees are no different. They’re never going to be hooked on a story – or battle heroically through thick and thin – if your purpose doesn’t resonate with them.

There will be people in your organisation, perhaps a lot of them, who just aren’t on-board. However, once you know your purpose, you can begin to recruit with your purpose in mind. Cometh the purpose, cometh the people.

At RealTV, we understand that every good video we produce – whether it’s safety or new products or building a customer service culture – engages and resonates when you communicate what you’re doing (your purpose) ‘why’ you’re doing it (the inciting incident) and ‘how’ you plan to get there (the plan).

It works for corporate videos, and movies and big business propositions too.